Located in northeastern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories, Wood Buffalo National Park is one of Canada’s largest national parks at 44,807 km2. You will be amazed that the Wood Buffalo Park area is bigger than Switzerland and it is the second largest national park in the world.
Founded in 1922 and recognized by UNESCO in 1983 to conserve the biodiversity of the world’s largest freshwater delta and the Peace Athabasca Delta, as well as the endangered Whooping Crane and wild bison populations. It has been designated as a World Heritage Site.
History Of Wood Buffalo National Park
Human culture has inhabited the Wood Buffalo National Park region since the end of the Ice Age. The area, later designated a National Park of Canada, has been visited and traveled by indigenous peoples for thousands of years. This park is located at the confluence of three of Canada’s major rivers. Slave River, Athabasca River, Peace River.
The Wood Buffalo National Park area is surrounded by indigenous people who follow a variety of subarctic lifestyles based on hunting, fishing and gathering. Former Chipewian, Danzer (historically known as Beaver), Woods Cree, and South Slavie (Dene Tar) tribes lived in the area, sometimes competing for resources and trade.
Peace River became the boundary with the Cree to the south and Dane-zaa to the northwest territories. In a recorded timeline, in 1781, the region came under the effect of the Smallpox pandemic. At that time, the two groups whistled at Peace Point and signed a peace treaty. This ceremony is the origin of the name of the river of peace that runs through both regions.
Agriculture did not develop at all in this part of western Canada, unlike in the southern regions. In 1896 Canada purchased the Hudson’s Bay Company and claimed ownership of the area. Trapping and hunting remained an important industry in the region well into the 20th century.
Despite objections from indigenous peoples, they may be exploited in the future to conserve and preserve the discovered mineral resources. The country then passed into federal hands as “Crownland”.
Origin Of Wood Buffalo National Park
Wood Buffalo National Park was established on crown lands acquired by the 8th Treaty between Canada and the local First Nations in 1922. Between 1925 and 1928, more than 5,000 wood bison were introduced into the national park and bred with local wood bison, causing tuberculosis and brucellosis to spread from cattle to herds.
Since then, authorities had tried to repair this damage by culling diseased animals one after another. In 1957, a herd of 200 wood his bison, free of disease, was found near the Nyarling River in Buffalo National Park. About 300 bison have been moved to the south side of Elk Island National Park. At a special slaughterhouse called Hay Camp he killed and sold over 3,000 bison.
Wood Buffalo National Park is the home to the whooping cranes, one of the last remaining free-roaming world’s largest herds, the only natural nesting habitat, and the world’s largest beaver dam. It bisects northern Alberta and extends into the southern part of the Northwest Territories.
Wood Buffalo Park is located directly north of the Athabasca Oil Sands. This place is known for its karst sinkholes in the park’s northeastern section.
The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada announced Wood Buffalo National Park as Canada’s newest and the world’s largest dark-sky preserve. The designation helps preserve nighttime ecology for the park’s large populations of night hawks, bats, and owls and provides opportunities for visitors to experience the unbelievable northern lights.
Wood Buffalo National Park tops the UNESCO World Heritage List. Recognizing its outstanding international importance, it deserves special protection. Its incredible ecological properties are: North America’s largest Great Plains-Boreal Prairie ecosystem where the relationship between wolves and wood bison remains pristine. The inland deltas, gypsum karsts and salt flats that provide breeding habitat for the critically endangered Whooping Crane and the world’s largest herd support large concentrations of migratory wildlife.
How To Reach Wood Buffalo Park
The park is divided into two main gateway Communities, Fort Chipewyan and Fort Smith. From Northern Alberta, take Mackenzie Hwy to reach Fort Smith, home to the park’s headquarters. You can watch for black bears and bison that sometimes lumber across the highway.
To reach the park office in Fort Chipewyan, you can find it only accessible by air or water. Every winter, an ice road links it to Fort Smith and Fort McMurray for a few months. You can lease commercial flights from Edmonton, Alberta, or Flight-seeing tours into the park can also be arranged.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recognizes that Wood Buffalo protects the Peace Athabasca Delta and Whooping Crane nesting sites. These two areas have been designated as Ramsar Sites under the Ramsar Convention with a focus on identifying and protecting critical migratory bird habitat. It was declared a nature reserve in 1982.
Buffalo National Park ranges to such elusive species as wolves, black bears, moose, beavers, foxes, and sandhill cranes; Cougars, feral horses, and muskoxen have been recorded within and in the vicinity of the park. However, watching these shy creatures should not leave to chance.
The park is home to numerous moose, gray owls, black bears, goshawks, forest wolves, lynx, beavers, snowy owls, marmots, bald eagles, martens, wolverines, peregrine falcons, whooping cranes, snowshoe hares, sandhill cranes and owls. I’m here. Capercaillies, bison and the world’s northernmost garter snake show their red flanks forming communal burrows in the park.
1. Endangered Whooping Crane
Wood Buffalo National The park is home to the world’s only natural nesting site for the endangered Whooping Crane.
2. Wood Bison
Bison is the term for buffalo, usually called wood bison or mountain bison. They are herbivorous herbivores that eat mainly grasses, sedges and herbs. Due to continuous and heavy snowfall in their natural habitat, food availability fluctuates throughout the year, resulting in a varied and varied diet. The deep snow layer often creates a barrier between the bison and their food source, so they must use their large heads and neck muscles to dig for edible morsels.
The park varies in different landscape types such as boreal forest, salt flats and gypsum karst. Boreal Plains, near Fort Smith City Headquarters in the Northwest Territories, is the most accessible and popular area of the park. Day hikes take you through forests of jack pine, boreal spruce, and aspen to see salt lakes, sinkholes, salt creeks, and underground streams.
Fort Smith is situated around the Slave River. Fort Smith is a home of 2500 people on the Slave River in the Northwest Territories near the Alberta border and the main service provider to the visitor center of Wood Buffalo. The first white trader from North West Company’ Peter Pond’ traveled on the Slave River and interacted with Indigenous people in this region.
Fort Chipewyan had a population of 852 in 2016 and was established in 1788; it is a hamlet on the western shores of Lake Athabasca 250 km north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Most visitors are locals because it is only possible to reach via seasonal ice roads, which cross a pair of frozen rivers in winter.
Things To Do In Wood Buffalo Park
- Paddle a canoe or a boat
- Go fishing in Buffalo River
- You can witness the aurora borealis on the bitterly cold, dark Arctic winter nights from the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve.
- Hiking via the Salt Plains, enjoying the Peace-Athabasca Delta, and viewing wildlife
- Biking in the Park
- Take a guided Salt Plains tour on Tuesdays, a Grosbeak Lake tour on Thursdays, and a guided canoe tour of Pine Lake on Saturdays.
- Swim in a sinkhole
- Explorer program for children. Contact the park office for themes and locations.
Best Time To Explore Wood Buffalo National Park
The best time to explore the park is between Victoria Day weekend and Labor Day, when Pine Lake Campground is open. Cultural events include Pine Picnic Table in mid-July and his Paddlefest Flotilla in early August. The temperature range is 68°F to 86°F.
The park is open in January and February. Most of the time winter is a good time to visit the place. The Northern Lights are there, so the next two months are perfect for Northern Lights viewing. The temperature range is -13°F to -22°F. From Fort McMurray, the Fort Chipewyan Winter Ice Trail continues through the park to Fort Smith. Driving on winter roads requires proper preparation. Please contact the park for road conditions and details.
How To Synchronize Your Path
A good car provides the best way to explore the park. This includes some off-piste runs at the Hay River and Salt Plains Lookout. Visitors can begin exploring the park before heading to the visitor center at Fort Smith. From the 18th century he was used as a fur trade route through the 19th century and was the administrative center of the Northwest Territories until 1967. The city is primarily a mix of Chipewyan, Non-Native and Métis. Enjoy another day of hiking in the Salt River Day Use Area before heading to Pine Lake.
Read What Visitors Say
One of the visitors shared that they visited Wood Buffalo National Park in mid-August. At 44,802 sq.km., The place is huge, with only one road to conserve wildlife and the environment. This vast boreal plains ecosystem has now become a site of world significance, forming a part of the natural heritage of humanity. This place protects the world’s largest free-roaming herd of bison left in existence, as well as the primary nesting grounds of the endangered whooping crane for a long time.
A couple of authors drove down from Yellowknife in a Frontier Bus van. After spending the night on the Hay River, we both saw spectacular northern lights before heading to Fort Smith. Just before they stopped in New Providence, they found two adult male Wood he bison. At the same time, they entered Wood Buffalo National Park and spotted a black bear and another adult wood bison.
After spending almost three nights at Fort Smith, we headed to the Wood Buffalo Visitor Center. From Fort Smith to Edmonton, you’ll fly over the vast wood buffaloes and forests, plains, and deltas pictured in the visitor center’s film, but without the herd of 5,000 wood bison. The staff was kind and suggested a walk down to the rapids to see the White Pelicans and braved the 4-wheel trail. People also visited the Provincial Museum and the Mission.
The Salt Springs overlooks and walking path at the end of an 11km unmade road with plenty of potholes, but it is worth it if you are in the area. The overlook provides an excellent view even if you don’t want to walk down the flats.
Wood Buffalo Park is ranked high among the visitors and netizens, with a 4.5 rating on Trip Advisor. The flats weren’t as white or dry as usual expected, and apparently, there had frequently been rain, and the salt recedes when the ground is wet. As the land had been wet, however, there were some great bison tracks.
Wood Buffalo National Park reserved a unique place in National Parks due to its wide wildlife and attraction claimed by the netzines and highlighted by the world heritage committee. You can stay in the park and witness the closet aspects of nature and the environment, which has two known nesting sites of whooping cranes.
Here you can explore not only the forest and wildlife animals but primarily lakes like the Athabasca river; little buffalo rivers are the hub of beautiful water bodies and canoe routes.